Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2014 - 03:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, Star Wars, Star Wars Battlefront, dice, ea
We have been not so patiently waiting for this announcement from DICE and EA ever since last years E3 but we finally have a rough idea when we can expect Star Wars Battlefield ... in about another year. While that is not the answer we were hoping for it does give hope to fans that we will indeed venture once more into a galaxy far far away! EA even suggested there could be as many as six new titles announced at the next E3 though we do not know how many will take place in the Star Wars universe; who knows they might even set one in the Legends Universe. Click on the links at Polygon for the full story.
"Publisher Electronic Arts plans to show more from Star Wars: Battlefront, the DICE-developed game set in the Star Wars universe, at this year's E3, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said during an investor call today."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare revealed ahead of schedule @ HEXUS
- House Of Cods: New Call Of Duty Has PMCs, Kevin Spacey @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Steam Who? – Humble Bundle’s Spring Sale @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Space Empires IV Deluxe WEEK LONG DEAL! Offer ends 12 May - $2.49 @ Steam
- Wot I Made: Sir, You Are Being Hunted V1.0 @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Nvidia Shield Portable Games Console @ eTeknix
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 11, 2014 - 12:13 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SimCity, ea
Maxis and Electronic Arts recognize the hefty portion of SimCity's popularity as a franchise is due to its mod community. The current version could use all of the help it can get after its unfortunate first year. They have finally let the community take over... to some extent. EA is imposing certain rules upon the content creators. Most of them are reasonable. One of them can have unforeseen consequences for the LGBQT community. The first rule should apply to their expansion packs.
Starting at the end, the last three rules (#3 through #5) are mostly reasonable. They protect EA against potential malware and breaches of their EULA and Terms of Service. The fifth rule does begin to dip its toe into potential censorship but it does not really concern me.
No-one can be "Best Friends" in North America.
The second rule, while mostly condemning illegal activity, does include the requirement that content remains within ESRB 10+ and PEGI 7. The problem with any content certification is that it limits the dialog between artists and society. In this case, references to same-sex topics (ex: Harvest Moon) in games may force a minimum T or M rating. A mod which introduces some story element where two Sims of the same gender go on a date or live together (again, like Harvest Moon) might result in interest groups rattling the ESRB's cage until EA draws a firm line on that specific topic.
EA is very good with the LGBQT community but this could get unnecessarily messy.
The first rule is a different story. It says that mods which affect the simulation for multiplayer games or features are not allowed (despite being the only official mode). They do not want a modification to give players an unfair advantage over the rest of the game's community.
You know, like maybe an airship which boosts "your struggling industry or commercial [districts]" and also brings in tourists and commuters without causing traffic on your connecting highway?
Maxis is still, apparently, exploring options for offline SimCity experiences. Even if they allow a server preference to not affect the global economy, mods would be able to be quarantined to those areas. Great, problem solved. Instead, it is somewhat left up to interpretation what is allowed. To make matters worse, the current examples of mods that we have are purely cosmetic.
SimCity is nowhere near as bad as Halo 2 Vista for its mod functionality (those mod tools were so hobbled that its own tutorial was impossible). It could actually be good. These are just areas for EA to consider and, hopefully, reconsider.
Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2013 - 06:48 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ea, DRM, battlefield 4
((Update: October 30 @ 7:04pm: The issue was not resolved by EA before the EU release date. However, as expected, the game unlocked at 7:01pm. While I wish I could have reported that the issue was resolved ahead of time, it wasn't, and now (since EA did not demonstrate any concrete effort in resolving the issue) I cannot tell whether we will experience the same issue next time. It is possible this issue could plague several releases to come. Keep this in mind.))
I just do not have any luck with pre-ordering titles on Origin. Battlefield 3 had a rough launch, especially on my computer, with it being almost a year until they sorted through the mouse lag hiccups (seemingly related to having Google Chrome running) and random crashes. My second title was SimCity, which requires no further explanation, and my latest is Battlefield 4. Now, it seems as though the actual game launched decently for the majority of customers. They try really hard; they really, really do.
Supposedly this also affected the Beta and other Origin titles.
Unfortunately, I was at Mozilla Summit. I cannot comment on that. No experience.
Somewhere in Origin there is a mistake with region-locking and certain ISPs. My primary ISP (Teksavvy cCable... not a typo) does not qualify, for some reason, as a North American release region. October 30th at 7PM EDT corresponds to October 31st at midnight CET so the game likely believes my connection belongs to the European Union. AT&T U-Verse and Vidéotron were also reported as having this problem.
I used my (in repair) Bell Canada DSL connection and was able to access the Battlefield 4 campaign (the connection is too unstable for multiplayer until it gets fixed). I, then, tried to access it again with Teksavvy? Nope. Relocked.
I contacted EA Support (I never identified myself as a journalist) who were honest and blunt about the issue. I respect that! Congratulations, EA, for having technical support open at 2 AM and treated me with respect. The company also started a thread in EA Answers asking for more information about affected customers. Still, currently, the issue has not been resolved.
But even that is irrelevant to the actual point because this is obviously an honest mistake. Still:
The DRM is making me not want to pre-order (or purchase at all) another title on Origin!
And... the kick while down... it has not helped anyone!
Region-locking does not make sense, especially not anymore, within a worldwide digital distribution network. I can connect by a VPN to anywhere in the world to pretend that I belong there. I legally purchased the title. There is no financial reason to make me wait to access it; in fact, especially with their recent refund policy, it might encourage me to cancel my order or outright ignore the product's existence in the first place.
EA has been expending tonnes of time and resources making Origin more desirable where it counts. They seem to actually care about their distribution platform's success. The have seemingly around-the-clock live tech support and a great refund policty. Yet, time and time again, these little mistakes where it doesn't even count add up to the terrible user experience. Yes, I could refund my title; I do not get the game I want and EA loses a sale. Great job, DRM!
EA, what has this accomplished except support costs, bad press, and anger legitimate customers?
Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2013 - 05:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: humble bundle, ea, origin
Humble Bundle have already sold a quarter million of this collection, but Electronic Arts (EA) will not see a dime of it. The Humble Origin Bundle allows donors, of at least $1, access to Dead Space, Burnout Paradise (Ultimate Box), Crysis 2 (Maximum Edition), Mirror's Edge, Dead Space 3, and Medal of Honor. A donation exceeding the average, currently $4.55, also grants access to Battlefield 3 and The Sims 3 (Starter Pack).
I say donation, as opposed to sale, because EA has declined to receive any proceeds. Any contribution you make can only be divided between Humble Bundle Inc and five charities: Human Rights Campaign, Watsi, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, American Cancer Society, and the American Red Cross.
Lastly, while all of these game will be available on Origin, certain titles will also receive Steam keys. As far as I can tell, this means any title available on Steam will receive a key for that platform.
I only have two comments: good on EA and play Mirror's Edge.
What do they want Origin to be?
GamesIndustry International conducted an interview with EA's Executive Vice President, Andrew Wilson, during this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2013). Wilson was on the team which originally designed Origin before marketing decided to write off all DOS-era nostalgia they once held with PC gamers through recycling an old web address.
The service, itself, has also changed since the original project.
'"Over the years ... there've been some permutations of that vision that have manifested as part of Origin," Wilson said. "I think what we've done is taken a step back and said 'Wow, we've actually done some really cool things with Origin.' It is by no means perfect, but we've done some pretty cool things. As you say, the plumbing is there. What can we do now to really think about Origin in the next generation?"
Fans of Sim City, who faithfully pre-ordered, will likely argue that Origin does not have enough sewage treatment at the end of their plumbing and the out-flow defecated all over their experience. A good service can be built atop the foundations of Origin; but, I have little confidence in their ability to realize that potential.
Wilson, on the other hand, believes they now "get it".
One assertion deals with customers who purchase more than one game. He argues that multiple update and online services are required and that is a barrier for users who desire a second, third, or hundredth purchase thereafter. The belief is that Origin can create a single experience for users and remove that barrier to inhibit a user's purchase. In practice, Origin ends up being a bigger hurdle than a single-game's service. It washes a bad faith over their entire library and fails to justify itself: games, such as Sim City, update on their own and old titles still have their online services taken offline.
What it comes down to is lack of focus. Wilson believes development of Origin was too focused on the transaction, and that lead to bad faith, presumably because customers would smell the disingenuous salesman. Good Old Games (GOG), on the other hand, successfully focused on the transaction. The difference? GOG gets out of your way immediately after the transaction, leaving you with just the game plus its bonus pack-ins you ordered, not DRM and a redundant social network.
Steam is heavily focused as a service and that is where EA desires Origin to be. The problem? Valve has set a high bar for EA to contend with. Steam has built customer faith consistently, albeit not perfectly, over its life with its user-centric vision. Not only would EA need to be substantially better than Steam, it is fighting with a severe handicap from their history of shutting down gaming servers and threatening to delicense merchandise if their customers upset them.
A successful Origin will need to carefully consider what it wants to be and strive to win at that goal. While possible, they are still content to handicap themselves and, then, not own the results of their decisions.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 18, 2013 - 03:39 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, geforce, frostbite 3, ea, dice, amd
The original source article at IGN.com has been updated with some new information. Now they are saying the agreement between AMD and EA is "non-exclusive and gamers using other components will be supported."
The quote from an EA rep says as follows:
DICE has a partnership with AMD specifically for Battlefield 4 on PC to showcase and optimize the game for AMD hardware," an EA spokesperson said. "This does not exclude DICE from working with other partners to ensure players have a great experience across a wide set of PCs for all their titles.
END UPDATE #3
This could be a huge deal for NVIDIA and AMD in the coming months - according to a story at IGN.com, AMD has entered into an agreement with EA that will allow them exclusive rights to optimization for all games based around the Frostbite 3 engine. That includes Battlefield 4, Mirror's Edge 2, Need for Speed Rivals and many more games due out this year and in 2014. Here is the quote that is getting my attention:
Starting with the release of Battlefield 4, all current and future titles using the Frostbite 3 engine — Need for Speed Rivals, Mirror's Edge 2, etc. — will ship optimized exclusively for AMD GPUs and CPUs. While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.
Battlefield 4 will be exclusive optimized for AMD hardware.
This is huge news for AMD as the Frostbite 3 engine will be used for all EA published games going forward with the exception of sports titles. The three mentioned above are huge but this also includes Star Wars Battlefront, Dragon Age and even the next Mass Effect so I can't really emphasize enough how big of a win this could be for AMD's marketing and developer relations teams.
I am particularly interested in this line as well:
While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.
The world of PC optimizations and partnerships has been around for a long time so this isn't a huge surprise for anyone that follows PC gaming. What is bothersome to me is that both EA and AMD
are saying are rumored to have agreed that NVIDIA won't get access to the game as it is being developed - something that is CRUCIAL for day-of driver releases and performance tweaks for GeForce card owners. In most cases, both AMD and NVIDIA developer relations teams get early access to game builds for PC titles in order to validate compatibility and to improve performance of these games for the public release. Without these builds, NVIDIA would be at a big disadvantage. This is exactly what happend with the recent Tomb Raider release.
AMD called me to reiterate their stance that competition does not automatically mean cutting out the other guy. In the Tomb Raider story linked above, Neil Robison, AMD's Senior Director of Consumer and Graphics Alliances, states quite plainly: "The thing that angers me the most is when I see a request to debilitate a game. I understand winning, I get that, and I understand aggressive companies, I get that. Why would you ever want to introduce a feature on purpose that would make a game not good for half the gaming audience?"
So what do we take away from that statement, made in a story published in March, and today's rumor? We have to take AMD at its word until we see solid evidence otherwise, or enough cases of this occurring to feel like I am being duped but AMD wants us all to know that they are playing the game the "right way." That stance just happens to be counter to this rumor.
NVIDIA had performance and compatibility issues with Tomb Raider upon release.
The irony in all of this is that AMD has been accusing NVIDIA of doing this exact thing for years - though without any public statements from developers, publishers or NVIDIA. When Batman: Arkham Asylum was launched AMD basically said that NVIDIA had locked them out of supporting antialiasing. In 2008, Assassin's Creed dropped DX 10.1 support supposedly because NVIDIA asked them too, who didn't have support for it at the time in GeForce cards. Or even that NVIDIA was disabling cores for PhysX CPU support to help prop up GeForce sales. At the time, AMD PR spun this as the worst possible thing for a company to do in the name of gamers, that is was bad for the industry, etc. But times change as opportunity changes.
The cold truth is that this is why AMD decided to take the chance that NVIDIA was allegedly unwilling to and take the console design wins that are often noted as being "bad business." If settling for razor thin margins on the consoles is a risk, the reward that AMD is hoping to get is exactly this: benefits in other markets thanks to better relationships with game developers.
Will the advantage be with AMD thanks to PS4 and Xbox One hardware?
At E3 I spoke in-depth with both NVIDIA and AMD executives about this debate and as you might expect both have very different opinions about what is going to transpire in the next 12-24 months. AMD views this advantage (being in the consoles) as the big bet that is going to pay off for the more profitable PC space. NVIDIA thinks that AMD still doesn't have what it takes to truly support developers in the long run and they don't have the engineers to innovate on the technology side. In my view, having Radeon-based processors in the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (as well as the Wii U I guess) gives AMD a head start but won't win them the race for the hearts and minds of PC gamers. There is still a lot of work to be done for that.
Before this story broke I was planning on outlining another editorial on this subject and it looks like it just got promoted to a top priority. There appear to be a lot of proverbial shoes left to drop in this battle, but it definitely needs more research and discussion.
Remember the issues with Batman: Arkham Asylum? I do.
I asked both NVIDIA and AMD for feedback on this story but only AMD has replied thus far. Robert Hallock, PR manager for gaming and graphics, Graphics Business Unit at AMD sent me this:
It makes sense that game developers would focus on AMD hardware with AMD hardware being the backbone of the next console generation. At this time, though, our relationship with EA is exclusively focused on Battlefield 4 and its hardware optimizations for AMD CPUs, GPUs and APUs.
Not much there, but he is also not denying of the original report coming from IGN. It might just be too early for a more official statement. I will update this story with information from NVIDIA if I hear anything else.
What do YOU think about this announcement though? Is this good news for AMD and bad news for NVIDIA? Is it good or bad for the gamer and in particular, the PC gamer? Your input will help guide or upcoming continued talks with NVIDIA and AMD on the subject.
Just so we all have some clarification on this and on the potential for validity of the rumor, this is where I sourced the story from this afternoon:
END UPDATE #2
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2013 - 03:16 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, microsoft, ea, E3 13, E3
Update: Microsoft denies the statements from their support account... but this is still one of the major problems with DRM and closed platforms in general. It is stuff like this that you let them do.
Consumers, whether they acknowledge it or not, fear for the control that platform holders have over their content. It was hard for many to believe that having your EA account banned for whatever reason, even a dispute with a forum moderator, forfeited your license to games you play through that EA account. Sounds like another great idea for Microsoft to steal.
@dohertymark If your account is banned, you also forfeit the licenses to any games that have licenses tied to it as listed in the ToU. ^AC
— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) June 14, 2013
Not stopping there, later on in the thread they were asked what would happen in the event of a security breach. You know, recourse before destroying access to possibly thousands of dollars of content.
@KillerRamen Ensure your account security features are enabled, and security proofs details are correct. ^ML
— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) June 15, 2013
While not a "verified account", @xboxsupport is.
They acknowledge ownership of this account in the background image there.
Honestly, there shouldn't have been any doubt that these actually are Microsoft employees.
At this point, we have definitely surpassed absurdity. Sure, you typically need to do something fairly bad to have Microsoft stop charging your for Xbox Live. Removing access to your entire library of games, to me, is an attempt to limit cheating and the hardware community.
Great, encourage spite from the soldering irons, that works out well.
Don't worry, enthusiasts, you know the PC loves you.
Gaming as a form of entertainment is fundamentally different than gaming as a form of art. When content is entertainment, its message touches you without any intrinsic value and can be replaced with similar content. Sometimes a certain piece of content, itself, has specific value to society. It is these times where we should encourage efforts by organizations such as GoG, Mozilla and W3C, Khronos, and many others. Without help, it could be extremely difficult or impossible for content to be preserved for future generations and future civilizations.
It does not even need to get in the way of the industry and its attempt to profit from the gaming medium; a careless industry, on the other hand, can certainly get in the way of our ability to have genuine art. After all, this is the main reason why I am a PC gamer: the platform allows entertainment to co-exist with communities who support themselves when the official channels do not.
Of course, unless Windows learns a little something from the Xbox. I guess do not get your Windows Store account banned in the future?
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 14, 2013 - 04:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: E3, E3 13, ea, dice
How could I resist?
I was surprised, the EA keynote -- usually an event which dances past, carefully not leaving anything like "an impression" on its way out -- stuck with me more than any other keynote. Sure, throughout the EA Sports segment I was cleaning my "office" and only modestly paying any level of attention, but I feel that DICE swept the show when they appeared. This, and the rest of the week brought good, bad, and awesome news for us PC gamers.
You have probably seen the Battlefield 4 multiplayer demo by this point. We linked to it, we discussed it. It seems like the destructibility found in the Battlefield 3 single player campaign was absent from the multiplayer not because of a technical reason but rather a design decision. Sure, we can see the radio tower collapse, but building destruction was quite simplified even when compared to Bad Company 2.
The Skyscraper collapse seems like it is a legitimate aspect of the game this time around and not just a baloney promotional piece. When the building collapses you can notice the control point disappear from the mini-map in the bottom left corner of the HUD. That gameplay element required quite a bit of design thought, even Bad Company 2 made buildings with Conquest flags indestructible. Maybe the harsh limitations on Battlefield 3 destructibility was more to keep unified game play between the PC and the 24 player-limited consoles?
Sadly, during E3 we have found that mod support will not be available for Battlefield 4. I must compliment GM of DICE, Karl-Magnus Troedsson, for his blunt honesty. It would be much simpler to kick your feet and say wait and see for something you know will never see the light of day; but, he gave us the straight answer. Sure, he said then engine is not ready for a public release but even then he admitted that it was not for our benefit. They do not have a good idea what boundaries they want to allow modders to access. While disappointing, at least it does not have a condescending tone like we experienced with Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 mod support requests.
Karl-Magnus Troedsson, DICE GM: We get that question a lot. I always answer the same thing, and then the community calls me bad names. We get the feedback, we understand it. We also would like to see more player-created content, but we would never do something like this if we feel we couldn’t do this 100 percent. That means we need to have the right tools available, we need to have the right security around this regarding what parts of the engine we let loose, so to say. So for BF4 we don’t have any planned mod support, I have to be blunt about saying that. We don’t.
Moving on, though. As we know, Disney decided that LucasArts properties would be best left to the hands at EA. The internet simultaneously joy-teared at the thought of a Star Wars Battlefront title developed by DICE. Sure enough, Star Wars: Battlefront 3 is a thing, and it will be developed using the Frostbite 3 engine.
Still no word on an Indiana Jones titled based on Mirror's Edge. Heh heh heh.
Oh by the way, the announcement I am, by far, most excited for is Mirror's Edge. I absolutely loved the first game, despite its terrible dialog, for how genuine and intrinsically valuable it felt. It gave the impression of a passion project, both in gameplay and in narrative theme. Thankfully, the game is being developed and it will come to the PC.
We also found out that Mirror's Edge is planned to be an "open world action adventure title". Normally that would scare me, but, that was what we were expecting of the first Mirror's Edge before their linear bait-and-switch.
Cannot tell if good or bad... but we will see at some point in the future.
Subject: General Tech | May 8, 2013 - 04:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Star Wars, obsidian, gaming, ea
Disney may have passed exclusive rights to EA for the Star Wars franchise but that might not mean the end of the world if Obsidian Entertainment's CEO has anything to say about it. Just as BioWare worked with Obsidian the idea of an EA and Obsidian partnership is not completely off the table. This might not full reassure those who still miss the old days of Black Isle and BioWare games but it seems that there is hope for the future of Star Wars games. Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has a quick interview with Feargus Urquhart discussing his efforts to partner up with EA.
"We now live in a world where The Sims: Star Wars or Need for Speed: Tosche Station could become things. I’m not saying it’s likely (though the former would not shock me in the slightest), but Star Wars is under new management, so who knows? For now, all we can say for sure is that BioWare, DICE, and Visceral are actively adding their own chapters to the space opera, but we won’t see results from those initial efforts until at least mid-2014 – and much later, in all likelihood."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Time to Ante Up Again: Poker Night 2 Review @ Techgage
- Bone Hordes: Hellraid Teaser Trailer @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Old, Faithful: OpenXcom Is Near-Complete @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Xciting Stuff: X: Rebirth Pathfinding Dev Diary @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Wolfenstein Videogame Announcement Bingo @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2012 - 04:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, ea, medal of honor, warfigher, 14th installment, frostbite
Medal of Honor is the game which just refuses to stop, with the arrival of Warfighter which is thie 14th version of this venerable series. It uses the DX11 Frostbite 2 Engine, the same as BF3, which is famous for needing high end graphics cards to get the most out of the effects available to the engine. [H]ard|OCP took three of the fastest AMD GPUs and three of the fastest NVIDIA cards to see how they fare against this new game. You may be pleased to hear all six cards could play at 2560x1600, it was only the MSAA settings which needed to be altered. Neither company was a clear winner, it seems that just about anyone with decent graphics capabilities will be able to play this game and experience the best the engine has to offer.
That is not what PC Perspective will be playing tonight on PC Per Live, we will be continuing our preferred choice of retro gaming with the original Battlefield 1942 game. It is now available for free on Origin, so if you want to play with us tonight you'd better start downloading it now! You should also think about tweaking the .ini files to enable resolutions that were not a choice 10 years ago!
"Medal of Honor: Warfighter uses the Frostbite 2 engine which was made popular by delivering realistic graphics and physics in Battlefield 3. We will be finding out if the image quality has improved or stayed the same compared to Battlefield 3, and what kind of hardware is needed to take full advantage of the game."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- X-COM Co-Creator Julian Gollop Making Chaos Sequel @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- David Braben Kickstarts an Elite Reboot @ Slashdot
- I Want Every Game To Be Made In The Sui Generis Engine @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Alan Wake PC Review @ eTeknix
- Assassin's Creed III Video Review by Kaeyi Dream @ HardwareHeaven
- Abduction Does Gorgeous Stealth In CryEngine 3 @
- Halo 4 Xbox 360 @ Tweaktown
- Halo 4 @ The Inquirer
- Halo 4 Review: Master Chief is Back @ TechSpot
- Street Fighter X Tekken (PS Vita) Game Review @ HardwareHeaven